The current dealings between Eva Presser, Bruce Gordon, the Nine Network and PBL resemble scripts written for Home and Away or Neighbours. It’s pure soap opera, bordering on farce.

Presser is so upset with Nine that she’s quitting TV and selling the Perth TV station to PBL Media while Bruce Gordon is so upset with Nine and its fee gouging that he’s fighting with the Packer-controlled Network while trying to buy the TV station from Presser.

Meanwhile, Jeff Eather at NBN blames Nine’s ratings weakness, and a soft ad market for the downturn in earnings, while Tony Bell at Southern Cross won’t rule out selling his Nine station in Adelaide.

And tomorrow the central characters in this soapy, Sunraysia and WIN Corporation, meet in the NSW Supreme Court before Justice Bob Austin for a hearing over four days to examine claims by WIN that had had an “offer” of $13.85 for STW that was better than the $11.96 being offered by PBL Media.

It’s bizarre that Presser and WIN haven’t been backward in criticising Nine (especially privately) for poor ratings, programming and the impact on their companies’ ad revenues, and yet they are doing their damnedest to try and do a deal with the devil. PBL made it clear in the AFR, through “sources close” to the company, that PBL Media would walk away from the Perth deal if it got too messy. That’s designed to put pressure on Presser and Gordon to do a deal, but there’s a lot of personal animosity there.

STW 9 has lost the best part of $9 million in the past year and will lose more this half, up to $3 million. You’d have to look hard to find a TV station that’s lost money for 18 months anywhere in Australia in recent years. So with that in mind you have to wonder why WIN wants Perth: is it just a negotiating chip with Nine?
If it did get control, what would WIN do? It would have to resolve a new affiliation agreement with Nine in Perth on top of the current negotiations for WIN. But could WIN be a bit long-sighted and be wondering if it could be the fourth commercial TV network, anchored on Perth and not in a regional city like Wollongong. It is already the fourth biggest commercial TV Network in the country, so why can’t it move into the city, if it can get hold of programming? That would be impossible without a big partner.

It’s a bit speculative but why else would WIN be trying to move to a deeper relationship with Nine when it is already arguing and bagging Nine privately for being high cost and delivering poor ratings?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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